EIA's new tables include capacity factors for individual renewable generating technologies

Monthly generator capacity factor data now available by fuel and technology

Contributed by | U.S. Energy Information Administration

Capacity factors are an important measure of electric generator usage. In December 2013, the U.S. Energy Information Administration began publishing tables of monthly capacity factors for 16 different fossil and non-fossil fuel and technology combinations in the Electric Power Monthly.

Wh​at is a capacity factor?
Capacity factors describe how intensively a fleet of generators is run. A capacity factor near 100% means a fleet is operating nearly all of the time. It is the ratio of a fleet's actual generation to its maximum potential generation.

In the past, EIA published annual capacity factors for only a few fuel types, and several renewable fuel types were aggregated. With an updated methodology and more detailed technology breakout, these new tables allow readers to distinguish between generators having different roles within the electric power system. Baseload generators, like nuclear units, typically have high capacity factors, while peaking generators like natural gas-fired combustion turbines have low capacity factors.

Monthly data allow users to see seasonal patterns, such as periods of nuclear refueling outages in the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) and increased operation of peaking generators during the periods of highest electricity demand in the summer months (driven primarily by air conditioning use).

EIA's new tables include capacity factors for individual renewable generating technologies (see chart below). Geothermal and waste technologies operate fairly steadily and at high capacity factors. Intermittent renewable sources like solar and wind tend to have lower capacity factors, as their output varies with the availability of the sun and wind on both a daily and seasonal basis. Solar generators—particularly solar thermal—operate at a minimum during winter months, while the U.S. wind fleet on average has a period of low production during the late summer. Hydroelectric generators show both seasonal and annual variations reflecting changing levels of precipitation, river flow, and snowmelt.


Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.


Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

US Battery - Solar RE L16XC Renewable Energy Battery

US Battery - Solar RE L16XC Renewable Energy Battery

Our batteries have Xtreme thick plates with (XC Diamond Plate Technology) added to them. They have been designed for hours of heavy discharge each day, followed by a fast recharge during the daylight hours. Very few batteries can take the grueling deep discharge-recharge cycle every day for long periods of time. U.S. Battery has proven time and time again that our solar battery line can stand up to this type of battery torture day in and day out for years to come. When you demand reliable energy storage count on U.S. Battery every time!